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Whiskered Wonderland

A fantastic facial hair competition benefits UMass Memorial’s Child Life Program

March 28, 2013


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Worcester resident Brad Petrinec entered his first bearding competition in Somerville last November and won first place in his category (full beard freestyle).

“I had so much fun that I thought Worcester needed something like this,” he said. So he contacted the Boston Beard Bureau, an organization dedicated to promoting the growth and appreciation of facial hair in the greater Boston area, to get some pointers. “They gave me a few ideas, and I also had some things in mind. Plus, I didn’t want to make money from the event; I thought it would be better to do it for charity.”

But which charity?

Petrinec talked with his brother (an anesthesia resident at UMass Memorial Medical Center), sister-in-law and some social worker friends to help him identify deserving local organizations. As part of his search, he visited the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center (CMC) website and read about the Child Life Program, through which certified specialists help children and their families cope with the stresses of hospitalization.

“I decided that this program could use the help,” he said, empathizing with what kids and parents must endure when a child is hospitalized.

So Petrinec set to work organizing and promoting his bearding competition fundraiser, dubbed Whiskered Wonderland. It took place at Ralph’s Rock Diner on Saturday, March 2, and attracted more than 300 attendees, including 40-plus competitors in seven different facial hair categories (26 in the natural full beard category alone). The evening also included music by local bands and a raffle with such prizes as donated art and gift certificates to local tattoo shops. Between the raffle and the $10 admission fee, the event netted nearly $3,000 for the Child Life Program.

“Without this kind of help, we couldn’t do as much as we do,” said Robert J. Wing, MA, CCLS, director of Child Life Services at the CMC. “Our pediatric outpatient department alone gets 56,000 visits a year, and our pediatric emergency department sees 30,000 patients. That’s a lot of kids for whom we try to normalize what can be a very scary situation, which we do with toys, teaching dolls, arts and crafts, books, video games and other fun activities. Events like these are a huge help.

“We love these quirkier ideas for fundraising,” Wing added. “An event like Whiskered Wonderland is fun, interesting and appealing to a wide range of people. We’re very grateful for the support.”

Petrinec is happy to give it.

“Whiskered Wonderland was a huge success, and we’ll definitely do it again next year,” he said.

Stay tuned!

For more information about the Child Life Program at UMass Memorial’s Children’s Medical Center, visit

To learn about upcoming community events supporting the efforts of UMass Medical School or UMass Memorial, visit

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